The Tuscany Prize for Catholic Fiction

Last week at the Catholic New Media Conference I had the pleasure of meeting Peter Mongeau and Christopher Samuels, who together have started a promising new project called Tuscany Press. Both are not only bibliophiles but also former businessmen, having worked for companies like Solomon Brothers and McKinsey, and they bring that expertise to the table with their new venture. They are currently accepting submissions for the Tuscany Prize in the categories of short fiction, novella, and novel, the winners of which will receive cash prizes and publication. Joseph O’Brien, a frequent contributor to Dappled Things, has written an article about Tuscany that no doubt many of our readers will want to check out. O’Brien begins:

The modern Catholic fiction writer has a tough row to hoe. On the one hand, he is expected by his fellow Catholics, at least those unfamiliar with the complexities of modern literature, to write simple moral stories where good wins out over evil, the princess is saved and happily ever after becomes the only acceptable conclusion to a story.

On the other hand, the Catholic fiction writer is also hoping to reach out to the modern non-Catholic and mostly non-Christian reader with the assumption that his story is worth hearing – and yet he must not say too much about the “R word” (religion) lest his readership begin heading in a panic for the exits.

The 20th century southern Catholic writer Flannery O’Connor puts the dilemma this way in her 1957 essay “The Church and the Fiction Writer:”

“Part of the complexity of the problem for the Catholic fiction writer will be the presence of grace as it appears in nature, and what matters for him is that his faith not become detached from his dramatic sense and from his vision of what-is. No one in these days, however, would seem more anxious to have it become detached than those Catholics who demand that the writer limit, on the natural level, what he allows himself to see.”

In fact, besides being pressured by secular and Catholic readers to fit into their own notions of what fiction should be, the Catholic writer’s row is made all the tougher to hoe because of the dearth of publishing houses willing to give Catholic writers a chance to show that they can write compelling, well-written and grace-infused stories for the Catholic and non-Catholic alike.

But Boston businessman Peter Mongeau is doing his best to make sure that the Catholic writer does find a voice within the milieu of today’s bestseller lists.

Read the rest at Korrektiv. Perhaps even more exciting is the fact that Tuscany is prepared to publish up to ten novels a year, which I think is far beyond what any other Catholic publisher is doing these days in terms of fiction. May they live long and prosper!